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Palestinians wave flags and chant slogans during a rally calling for reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah.

Bernat Armangue/AP

Egypt has opened wide its border crossing with the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, easing the blockade that had been imposed on the territory by Israel and Egypt for the past four years.

While people and trucks have been allow to pass through the Rafah crossing for several hours most weeks ever since the overthrow of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in February, Saturday's move will have the crossing open every day but Friday and with fewer restriction of who can pass through.

Israeli officials have expressed concern that unrestricted access could mean the entry into Gaza of weapons and military personnel intended to strengthen the Hamas authorities.

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During the rule of the Palestinian Authority led by Mahmoud Abbas, the crossing was run by PA personnel under the view of foreign observers and Israeli cameras. The rules then in force permitted Israel to have the crossing closed if it feared entry of people or things that might adversely affect Israel's security.

Since 2007, when Hamas and Mr. Abbas's forces fought a brief but bloody civil war in Gaza and PA forces were withdrawn, Hamas has run the territory, and the border crossings and ports have been closed.

While Israel is heard complaining loudly about this weekend's developments, Israeli leaders have secretly been hoping for this for a long time.

There's nothing they'd like more than to have the troublesome Gaza Strip more closely linked to Egypt. They hope it will take pressure off Israel to more widely open its several crossings into Gaza.

Some even imagine that Egypt might occupy the territory as it did prior to 1967, and rid Israelis forever of what they consider to be a dangerous nuisance.

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About the Author
Global Affairs reporter

As Global Affairs Writer, Patrick Martin’s primary focus is on the turbulent Middle East, to which he travels regularly. He has twice been posted to the region – from 1991-95 and from 2008-12. More

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